Photo by  Reba Jensen


Based in Cranston, Rhode Island, Elizabeth Peña-Alvarez is a sculptor working primarily with clay. She received her BFA from Swain School of Design and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design as well as an MFA in Artisanry from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2022.  Her work is exhibited nationally. She is a recent recipient of the Sage Fellowship for a summer residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts and the Angus Graham Fellowship for a fully funded residency at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. Presently, she is a longterm artist in residence at the Worcester Center for Craft. Born of Ecuadorian heritage in Miami, Florida, the city's  abundant and varied vegetation has had a lasting impact and continues to drive her studio work. 


It is said that in life, suffering is inevitable. We suffer with physical and 

emotional pain from disease and grief. We suffer from loss, such as the end of 

a marriage, impairment of a limb, or the death of a child. After a series of 

successive traumas, it is more than resiliency or perseverance that enables 

one to move forward. With a shift in perspective, traumatic events can be 

viewed as catalysts for change. As the ancient Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote: “The

 wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Clarity of purpose is 

illuminated by re-assembling remnants of the previous way of life, however, 

with a more curatorial focus. This is known as Post-Traumatic Growth, which

 is the essence of my work.

In my artwork, I investigate Post-Traumatic Growth by incorporating 

universal dichotomous themes such as life and loss; growth and destruction; 

beauty and darkness. My visual vocabulary is informed by observations of the

natural world, including flora, and human anatomy. These images are 

integrated into my large-scale ceramic, hand-built, highly textural, biomorphic 

sculptures, with focal points of meticulous detail, which are hybridized forms

of botanical and anatomical elements, invoking transformative and

transcendent growth. These forms are sometimes juxtaposed with steel or 

metallic glazed liturgical objects, providing the opportunity for glints of light.


Drawing upon events in my life, I create autoethnographic 

sculptures.  Autobiographical art is based solely upon the artists’ memories 

and experiences, whereas autoethnographic art is the result of the artist 

expanding beyond their story by researching their personal history 

and additional related topics which connect to their specific circumstances, in 

an effort to better understand themselves within the context of their culture. 

These two approaches towards creating and understanding visual art are the

foundation on which my work is based. 

    During my research, I learned of pyrophytic pine trees and their serotinous 

pinecones, which require fire for their seeds to sprout. Certain pine trees have

 serotinous cones that are completely sealed with resin, which will only open 

to release their seeds after the heat of a fire has physically melted the resin. 

Other species require the chemical signals from smoke, charred plant matter

 and ash, to break the seeds’ dormancy. Some species rely upon fire to 

eliminate faster growing plants that could shade them out. Although repeated

 fires may seem detrimental, they actually keep competitors in check

 and also promote a nutritive ground layer of ash, the remnants of life lost, 

that provides the nutrients from which new life grows; nature's post-

traumatic growth.

Photo by Viera Levitt

Photo by Elizabeth Peña-Alvarez

Photo by Tom O'Malley